Henry E. Emerson

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Henry Everett Emerson[1]
MG Henry E. Emerson, USA.png
Nickname(s) "Gunfighter", "Hank"
Born (1925-05-28) May 28, 1925 (age 89)[1]
Washington, D.C., U.S.[1]
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1943–1977
Rank US-O9 insignia.svg Lieutenant General
Commands held 18 ABC SSI.svg XVIII Airborne Corps
2 Infantry Div SSI.svg 2nd Infantry Division
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Awards Distinguished Service Cross ribbon.svg Distinguished Service Cross (2)
Silver Star ribbon.svg Silver Star Medal (5)
Bronze Star ribbon.svg Bronze Star Medal (2)
Purple Heart BAR.svg Purple Heart (2)

Henry Everett "Hank" Emerson (born May 28, 1925) is a retired United States Army lieutenant general best known for being the commander of the 2nd Infantry Division in South Korea[2] during the mid-1970s, when Colin Powell served as a battalion commander.[2][3] Emerson is a 1947 graduate of the United States Military Academy.


Emerson gained recognition during the Vietnam War for his tactical ability on the battlefield. His tactics, as a commander were novel.[3] He conceived aerial reconnaissance and combat methods that were employed effectively against the Viet Cong. These included a checkerboard concept that involves small groups covering grid squares to seek out an enemy, jitterbug tactics which are complex maneuvers using helicopters to surround an enemy. To the unitiated this would seem jittery like the dance, and Eagle Flights which were helicopters loaded with local soldiers and flown in quickly to assist foreign troops in certain situations.[4][5] He demonstrated that American soldiers could effectively "out-guerrilla" the Viet Cong. Emerson also developed the "seal-and-pile-on technique" (the rapid build-up of combat power to surround and destroy an enemy force). These highly complex tactics shattered many large enemy units.

Emerson in 1975, with his non-standard six-shooter revolver.

Emerson was known for his somewhat eccentric personality, from his training methods to carrying a cowboy-style revolver in place of a regulation M1911 semi-automatic pistol. He was a believer in reverse-cycle training, during which troops trained at night and slept during the day.[citation needed] He also required that they watch the television film Brian's Song, to promote racial harmony. Colin Powell, who would later go on to become the U.S. Secretary of State, has stated that they were very close and that what set Emerson apart was his great love of his soldiers and concern for their welfare. In many instances when he was the XVIII Airborne Corps commander he would turn in the tag numbers of excessively speeding vehicles. The next morning, the violator(s) would be escorted by the company and battalion commanders from their unit and a verbal reprimand would be delivered by the brigade commander.

Emerson suffered severe burns after his helicopter was shot down in the Mekong Delta.[6] He had commanded forces during the Vietnam War prior to being stationed in South Korea.[3] He later served as commander of the XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg, from July 1975 to June 1977.


  1. ^ a b c Jackson, Jonathan. "Senior Officer Oral History". An Oral History of LTG Henry E. Emerson. U.S. Army Military History Institute. Retrieved February 15, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b The Art of Command: Military Leadership from George Washington to Colin Powell, edited by Laver, Harry S. and Jeffrey J. Matthews, University Press of Kentucky, Lexington Kentucky (2009). LCCN 2008-28017
  3. ^ a b c Chales, James R., The God Machine: From Boomerangs to Black Hawks: The Story of the Helicopter, Bantam Dell, New York (2007), ISBN 978-0-553-80447-9
  4. ^ http://www.history.army.mil/books/Vietnam/Sharpen/ch06.htm
  5. ^ http://blogs.denverpost.com/captured/2012/05/15/photographer-collection-horst-faas-vietnam/5689/
  6. ^ "Army brigade head hurt in Viet air crash". Chicago Tribune (Tribune Company). August 29, 1968. 

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